King City’s Elijah Clavijo (middle) celebrates with his family and coaches after signing his letter of intent to play football at Willamette University this fall. (Jason Gallardo/Staff)

KING CITY — When King City High School senior athlete Elijah Clavijo received the offer to play at Willamette University, he always thought it would be for baseball, but instead it turned out to be for football.

“I never thought I would play football in college,” Clavijo said. “I was pursuing baseball.”

Before coming to King City, Clavijo had lived in Los Angeles and Paso Robles.

“For the majority of my life, I lived in Paso,” he said. “I moved to King City after my eighth-grade graduation.”

During his time with the Mustangs, Clavijo was a two-sport athlete who played football and baseball. Growing up, his favorite sport was baseball, and he always wanted to play at the college level.

“I grew up loving baseball,” Clavijo said. “Football was fun, but it was always second to baseball.”

Elijah Clavijo pitches for the King City Mustangs baseball team. Clavijo always wanted to play college baseball growing up, but he has agreed to play football instead at Willamette University this fall. (Jason Gallardo/Staff)

Going into his senior year, Clavijo was thinking about the future and which college he would like to attend. The first school on top of that list was Willamette University in Salem, Ore.

“My parents always thought ‘what if’ I got to play sports at Willamette,” he said.

Back in August, Clavijo visited his uncle in Keizer, Ore., which is about 10 minutes away from the Willamette University campus.

“I fell in love with the area,” Clavijo said.

Going into his final year of high school football, Clavijo started off with a bang in his first game of the season. He rushed for 110 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown.

Clavijo finished second in rushing with four touchdowns and was King City’s fourth-leading tackler. He helped the Mustangs achieve one of their best seasons in years, as they finished the season 7-2 and just missed the playoffs.

Clavijo originally applied to Willamette University for baseball, but never heard back from any coach. Then, on Nov. 15, he received a message on Twitter from the college’s running back coach, asking him for more game film.

“I applied to the school for baseball, but I never heard back from him,” he said. “But the running back coach saw my application.”

A couple days later, Willamette University offered Clavijo a roster spot on the team. With his parents’ blessing, he accepted the offer just minutes after receiving it.

“Once I accepted the offer, I felt relieved,” he said. “It was a big weight off my shoulders. I know where I’m going now. I know what I’m going to do and the path I have to take.”

With Clavijo accepting the football offer, he understood his dream of playing college baseball would have to be put on hold.

“I’ve been trying to play baseball in college my whole life,” he said. “I got a few offers for baseball, but (Willamette’s) offer was too good to pass up.”

Elijah Clavijo takes pictures with his entire family after signing his college letter of intent. (Jason Gallardo/Staff)

After celebrating with his parents, Clavijo made a second call to King City’s Head Football Coach Mac Villanueva. During his time on the Mustangs football team, Clavijo said he had been thankful for the teaching and lessons.

“Coach Mac is awesome,” he said. “He cares about every single one of us. He is always out there with high energy doing the most. All the coaches loved us, and you can see it.”

Clavijo said it wasn’t just the sports program at Willamette University that drew him to the college, it was also the psychology department, which could help him become a lawyer.

“I want to get my master’s,” he said, discussing his future. “After that, I want to apply to law school so that I could be lawyer.”

If Clavijo is to get his master’s degree, he knows that he will have to sacrifice and work hard. Luckily for him, he has been prepared by his mom, who is his biggest inspiration and drives more than an hour to get to work every day.

“She has been working hard every day of my life,” he said. “She provided for my sister and I. I wouldn’t have this opportunity without my mom.”

Clavijo dreams of playing college baseball, but the opportunity to chase his goal of being a lawyer starts when he reports to Willamette University in the fall.

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Jason Gallardo is the sports reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers high school sports for South Monterey County.


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